The family of fernlets huddled together as they emerged from the soil for the first time. The sun shone down and a vast forest loomed around them. It was all rather frightening after the dark of the earth and they needed some time to collect themselves.
“Why does it take so long for things to turn green again? This is taking forever!”
The child’s grandmother took a breath and considered the matter. “Well, there’s little elves out there who were hired to the job. They get paid in birdsong, bullfrog croaks, and peepers, so as soon as you hear those you know it has begun. They have tiny paintbrushes, you see, and they have to paint each blade of grass and every single plant. It goes rather slow at fast because they’re out of practice, but once they’ve caught their stride it goes ever so fast. Some folks call that the ‘green-up’ but I just call it spring.”
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Once upon a time the King of the Forest decided to humour the feline and give him the title of Chief Arborist. Years passed with no equipment, salary, or even a thank-you, but the cat never shirked his responsibilities. He taught himself to trim branches with his teeth and prune with his claws, certain his forest was the loveliest in all the land.
She stopped short when she noticed the fragile first leaves of the season. They bobbed with joy on the breeze that wafted past, and she smiled the first smile the leaves had ever seen. They were dazzled, and both lives were all the richer for it.
The fairy tapped the bud with her wand and waited. The pod opened slowly, the outer capsule splitting away, exposing yellow and green tendrils that prodded the air and lingered, protective, over the burgundy mass of flower about to burst into life.
“It looks like some sort of mandible. Maybe the jaw bone of an eel or something.”
The oldest rolled her eyes. “Don’t be silly. It’s obviously an octopus comb. They use them all the time to keep the seaweeds in their gardens from getting too knotted.”
The wizard narrowed his eyes at the children. They watched in horror as he reached for his wand. Should they run? Was there anywhere to hide? They held their breath as he muttered a few rhymes and pointed his wand at them…and nothing happened at all, for it was spring and the wand was far too busy growing buds and dreaming of leaves to bother with children just being kids and a grumpy old wizard.
The most important thing to remember about enchanted forest finding is that any rules are mere guidelines. An enchanted forest may contain one or more of the ‘classic’ traits or none at all. It may be a forest, or it might only be a forest if you were to shrink yourself down to the size of an ant and start looking up at dandelion stalks or renegade clover. A change of perspective can go a long way when it comes to enchantment.
An enchanted forest should always have one or two old trees. The older the better because dryads, or tree spirits, become friendlier with age. The younger ones can be quite shy, but of course there are exceptions to every rule. Trees themselves are most often easy friends, as long as you are nice to them and don’t damage their roots or their bark.
You can tell how old a tree is by looking at its bark. Like people, trees get wrinkles when they grow older. Unlike people, they are very proud of their wrinkles. Consider each as a laugh line, earned from happy memories and a well-told joke, summer vacations and family camping trips. In trees, these wrinkles look like deep grooves between flakes of their bark. There may be spiders or fairies making homes in the shadows of these grooves, and that is to be expected after all, for they are such happy places and make a wonderful place to rest until you feel better. Flies and other sorts of insects reading this should avoid the ones with spiders, of course.
Some of these old trees are so enchanting that they can even make an enchanted forest out of a lawn, which is very fortunate for children who cannot shrink down or get their clothes dirty and who only get to see forests on summer vacations and weekend trips to the country. Enchanted forests are much better received if taken in daily doses, after all, but you must do the best you can. Imagining an enchanted forest is also a good idea, and can do wonders to strengthen your imagination muscles.
An enchanted forest should also contain a stream, a brook, or some sort of watery place. A puddle after the rain will suffice, of course, and the muddier the better. Desert-dwelling people will have to make do with an enchanted cactus, of which I have little expertise, but as I understand it, cacti have secret (magical) stores of water and this should suffice. This water is important because it gives entrance to water sprites, undines, and the occasional freshwater mermaid which is refreshing for everyone. They are also handy for making children squeal with delight and give them all sorts of stories to tell their friends at school.
Following these guides (or not) should have you well on your way to finding or imagining an enchanted forest of your own. I recommend returning again and again until the forest becomes as familiar with you as it is its own soil. After all many fairies, trees, and the like enjoy a rare glimpse of a human once in a while themselves, as some of them (fairies in particular) are never certain if we are real or not.
The crow glared a moment at some noisy children before he returned to reading his newspaper. It was old news; it took forever for bugs to produce this sort of thing, but he considered himself a crow of the world and as such he liked being seen reading the paper now and then.